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Media Council of Tanzania Website
Media outlets a have been challenged to always adhere to the principle of balance in handling and processing news.
The Chairperson of the Ethics Committee of the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), rtd Justice Thomas Mihayo emphasised the importance of balancing the news when he delivered the Council’s verdict on the complaint raised by the Kinondoni Member of Parliament. Iddi Azan against Raia Mwema newspaper.
The Committee during its session held on November 20, 2013 directed the weekly newspaper to apologise to the MP for professional weaknesses in processing and publishing a negative story on him.
The weekly newspaper paper on its issue No. 309 of July 31 to August 6 ran a front page main lead story carrying the headline “ Idd Azzan an MP or drug pusher”(Iddi Azzan Mbunge au muuza dawa za kulevya?). The lengthy story continued to pages 3 and 4.
The MP in his complaint received by the Council on August 5, 2013 said that the article was malicious bent to tarnish his image.
In addition Azzan questioned the source of the information as unreliable and protested for not being given the right of reply by the newspaper.
Godfrey Dilunga, the newspaper’s editor put up a spirited defense before the Ethics Committee pointing out that it had adhered professional principles in handling the story before publishing it.
We checked on several sources, Dilunga told the committee which is made up of five six members including its chairperson.
The editor’s steadfast position was crashed after the MP testified before the committee that the newspaper contacted him for his reaction after publishing the story.
Reading an SMS message from his cell-phone before the committee, Azzan said, the a reporter of the newspaper one Ezekiel Kimwaga sent him the SMS on July 31, 2013 seeking to get his views after they had published the story.
“I turned down the request as the damage was already done”, he said.
In its ruling, the Ethics Committee pointed out that the newspaper had failed to establish the allegations against the MP and even did not give him the right of reply before publishing them.
Though it is permissible to quote other sources, if the MP was contacted, he could have given a sound response on developing the story, the committee maintained
Though the newspaper had contacted various sources, but the committee noted that the sources could not serve as alternative to the MP himself.
Though the tip for the news emanated from social networks, the committee pointed out that efforts were not exhausted to confirm the information.
As the information was sensitive, the committee noted that there was no need to rush to publish the story before contacting the MP.
Apart from apologizing to the MP, the newspaper has been directed to conduct an interview with him so that he can respond squarely on the allegations within two weeks from November 20, 2013.
The paper has also been directed to reimburse the MP for all expenses incurred in raising the complaint.
Another complaint raised by the MP against, Mwanahabari newspaper could not be heard after the newspaper’s representative could not attend due to pressing domestic issues.
A complaint against Nyakati newspaper raised by some Moslem clerics was withdrawn as the parties involved agreed to settle it among themselves.
Committee members who assisted Justice Mihayo in the session are Ussu Mallya, Rafii Haji Makame, Rose Haji, and Kenneth Simbaya.
The Executive Secretary of MCT, Kajubi Mukajanga served as Secretary of Committee.
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